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Public urged to report all positive Covid cases to help officials track virus

Director of Public Health, Dr Helen Carter. Photo by Johnny Bugeja.

The Director of Public Health, Dr Helen Carter, is encouraging the public to notify the Gibraltar Health Authority of positive Covid-19 test results, amid concerns of under-reporting of cases during the festive break.

Dr Carter is currently analysing the figures for the Christmas break, with the data expected to be released early next week.

But she suspects the low number of cases reported does not reflect the spread of Covid-19 locally.

To help health officials track the spread of the virus, the public has been reminded to notify the GHA of any positive tests by calling 111.

"It is really good news that people are testing themselves on lateral flow tests and they are testing positive and they are still following our advice around self-isolating for five days, and making sure that they test before they come out," she said.

"That's the intelligence we are receiving from people."

"People are still testing, it's still in the forefront of their mind. So we know what we are seeing in the official figures and I'm just in the process of putting together those figures from the Christmas period."

Dr Carter said she has seen an increase in people testing positive when coming into hospital, which indicates wider Covid transmission.

"Our figures are showing that it is under-reported," she said.

"But we are in a good position, we have a vaccine programme. It's not too late for people to get their vaccines if they want to and they can walk into the Primary Care Centre."

"What we are seeing is that most people are very mild at the moment."

Dr Carter said Covid is still a notifiable infection and it is a legal requirement to let the GHA know.

She added this is also important to monitor the virus, reminding people too of a recent rule change requiring anyone arriving from China to provide a negative PCR test before arrival.

The concern is that with the rapid spread of Covid-19 in China, variants in the virus could occur.

Dr Carter said that China is now working with the World Health Organisation in terms of sharing their data regarding any possible variants.

The testing prior to arrival in Gibraltar is precautionary, so that the spread of any new variants can be delayed.

"Even if we do get a new variant, it's not necessarily doom and gloom because we know from previous experience that there will be some cross over immunity from the vaccine," she said.

"Even if the vaccine isn't entirely great for the new variant that emerges, we've got very rapid scalable vaccine production now."

"We're in a very, very different position to where we were in 2020."

Dr Carter said China has moved from a strategy of zero Covid, which resulted in a population with very low immunity, and changed that policy very rapidly.

Whereas Gibraltar had a very staged approach to opening up, Dr Carter said, China hadn't done that which has led to uncontrolled transmission.

"We know they have very low levels of vaccine uptake and particualrly amongst the elderly and we know that their vaccine wasn't as effective as the MRNA one that we've got," she said.

Dr Carter added that this year has seen a layering effect of winter viruses, with cases of the flu and of Group A streptococcus.

She added though that have been no invasive cases of Group A streptococcus in Gibraltar as seen in the UK.

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